Explore the Junior Tennis Champions Center's high performance program by clicking on the banner above

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Geller and Liu Roll On, Osuigwe Comes Back on Soggy Day Three at Wimbledon Junior Championships

©Colette Lewis 2017--

Before the first ball was struck Tuesday at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the clouds thickened, and just a few games into the first matches of the second round of the Wimbledon Junior Championships a suspension of play was necessary, with another following. A third suspension proved to be the last of the day, with rain heavy continuing throughout the evening, but by then, last week's two Roehampton champions were safely through.

Axel Geller of Argentina had beaten DJ Thomas en route to the ITF Grade 1 Roehampton title last week, taking a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the third round, so a 33-minute 6-1, 6-0 win was not what he was expecting.

"Last week it was 6-3, 6-4, one break per set, he had many chances on my serve," said the voluble 18-year-old, who is joining Stanford this fall. "I played really good, and he also did. It was a very good match. I knew he has the potential to beat anyone; he has those big shots, he can hit winners from anywhere, he's very good at the net. So I started out really competitive. I think I competed really well, every point I was there and when I was winning easy I kept it going."

Geller had reason to wonder if his good start, up 2-0 and serving at 40-0, was going to be stalled by the first rain delay.

"At 15-0 the rain was getting a bit stronger and I hurried up, hit two big serves and was ready to serve again to make it 3-0, but I couldn't," Geller said. "I didn't want to stop, but we had to stop because of the rain...I had the confidence with my serve, that at 40-0 it was probably going to go my way, but I thought it would be a different match from then. Luckily, I just kept going and he couldn't keep it up."

Geller said he was recently featured in a prominent newspaper in Argentina, which, in addition to the attention he has received for winning Roehampton, has created a new situation for him.

"I've started receiving so many messages and everything and it's hard to try to keep focus, not feel like you've already done something big," Geller said. "So I'm trying to go one match at a time, not pay attention to much of anything. Probably the pros get this every day, but I'm not used to getting like 50 messages from every different social network, so I'm trying to take it easy, just text my best, best friends and my family."

Geller will play Naoki Tajima of Japan, one of only three other boys to finish Tuesday, but that third round match is not on Wednesday's schedule, with eight boys second round matches still in progress and four yet to begin.  No. 2 seed Yibing Wu, who retired to Vasil Kirkov last week at Roehampton, won this week's rematch easily, taking a 6-1, 6-1 victory.  Sam Riffice is down a set to Constantin Bittoun-Kouzmine of France and Patrick Kypson is on serve early with No. 5 seed Yuta Shimizu of Japan. Oliver Crawford[10] and Sebastian Korda did not begin their matches against Barnaby Smith of Great Britain and Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic.

Roehampton girls champion Claire Liu, seeded No. 3 this week, didn't let two rain delays slow her down, as she took out Mahak Jain of India 6-2, 6-1.  Liu, who didn't lose a set in her six matches at Roehampton, has lost only six games in her first two wins at Wimbledon. She will play No. 16 seed En Shuo Liang of Taiwan on Wednesday.

Liu is one of five US girls who advanced to Wednesday's third round, with top seed Kayla Day's match with qualifier Jule Niemeier of Germany suspended with Day up 6-2, 1-3.

Ann Li defeated British wild card Eliz Maloney 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, and will play qualifier Maja Chwalinska of Poland, who surprised Australian Open champion and No. 5 seed Marta Kostyuk 6-1, 6-4.  Chwalinska, a 15-year-old who looks no more than 12, didn't give Kostyuk any pace to work with, using slices and drop shots to keep the Ukrainian out of her rhythm. Kostyuk saved two match points serving at 2-5 and was able to break Chwalinska when serving for the match, but Chwalinska broke to earn the win.

While the Australian Open girls champion exited, French Open girls champion Whitney Osuigwe,  playing on the next court over, did manage to extricate herself from an upset bid by Ylena In-Albon of Switzerland 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Osuigwe, who took over the ITF's junior No. 1 position this week, had lost to In-Albon in their previous meeting back in May, at the Grade A in Milan, so she was not looking past the 18-year-old left-hander.

"She's definitely a clay court player," said the 15-year-old from Florida. "She has a good serve and when she's on the run, she knows how to get herself out of it...she's just a good player all around."

Osuigwe attributed her slow start to nerves, but she was able to calm herself down after a bathroom break between the first and second sets.

"After I went to the bathroom, I had a total mindset change," Osuigwe said. "I focused myself back in on what I needed to do: more kick serves, better placed serves, moving her with angles."

Osuigwe saw her 4-1, one-break lead in the second set dwindle, but she broke In-Albon for a 5-3 lead then served out the set with some great defense on her one set point at 40-30.

In the third set, Osuigwe was up two breaks at 4-1, but she lost nine points in a row, and In-Albon got one of the breaks back before Osuigwe held for a 5-3 lead.

At 5-4, a light rain began to fall, and In-Albon had words with the chair umpire, but it was about the score, not the conditions on the courts. In-Albon argued that the score was deuce, not 5-4, contending that Osuigwe had been down 0-40 on her serve, apparently certain that a shot she had hit on the second point of the game was in, although it was called out. In-Albon didn't object when the chair called the score in subsequent points of that game however, so her argument at the change of ends proved futile.

In-Albon was unable to regroup after the discussion, and she netted a forehand at 15-40 to give Osuigwe the win, just moments before rain heavy enough to suspend play for the remainder of the day arrived.

Osuigwe will face Katie Swan of Great Britain, who took out Caty McNally 6-0, 6-3, avenging her first round loss to the American at Roland Garros.

"I know she's good," Osuigwe said of Swan, who she has never seen play before. "She obviously has more pressure than me, being 18, being from here, this being her surface. So I'm just going to go out there and play, doing what I do best."

Osuigwe considers her variety as a key to her success on all surfaces.

"I'm pretty fast movement-wise and I have a lot of variety in my game," said Osuigwe. "The ability to change the way I play--I can play offensive, I can play aggressive, I can be an all-court player, I can be a counter-puncher or an aggressive baseliner."

A quarterfinalist from the US is assured in the girls draw, with Ellie Douglas and Sofia Sewing[14] facing off in the third round.  Douglas got past Thaisa Pedretti of Brazil 7-6(5), 6-4 and Sewing beat qualifier Oona Orpana of Finland 6-3, 6-2.

Sewing, who had played nearly three hours to earn a dramatic 6-3, 6-7(8), 9-7 first round victory over Great Britain's Ali Collins Monday, admitted that she was feeling the effects of that match Tuesday morning.

"I'm actually very sore," said Sewing, who didn't convert match points leading 6-3, 5-2 on Monday, but did close out her match today despite going down 0-40 in the final game and needing three match points to finish it.  "I'm super sore. But I'm going to do a massage later and do another ice bath and hopefully that will relax me a little bit and I'll be looser tomorrow."

Part of the physical adjustment necessary is due a lack of experience on grass.

"Now that I've gotten used to it, it's my first time playing on grass,  Roehampton was my first time ever," Sewing said when asked if she enjoyed playing on the surface. "It suits my game, and these courts are actually a lot nicer; they don't have those weird bounces. You've just got to stay low, if you get up, the ball will fly.  But I actually think it suits my game a lot. I enjoy it out there, the atmosphere's very nice, everybody's watching and I've gotten good courts, so I had a lot of fun."

Only two girls seeds lost in the second round, Kostyuk and No. 8 seed Emily Appleton, who went out to Sofya Lansere of Russia 6-4, 6-4. Day and No. 12 seed Mai Hontama of Japan have not finished their matches, and if they win, they will play their third round matches on Wednesday as well.

A few doubles matches were begun on Tuesday, but none were completed, with all first round doubles matches now scheduled for Wednesday.

The junior draws can be found at the Wimbledon website.

Venus Williams, seeded No. 10, advanced to Thursday's semifinals today, beating French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko[13] of Latvia 6-3, 7-5 in the quarterfinals. Williams will face No. 6 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain for a place in the final.